Carrie Landau '96, '02 MCJ was a perfect choice to speak to St. Ambrose students on the topic of Exploring Gender and women's issues, as well as pursuing careers in the field of criminal justice in early October.
A special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in south suburban Chicago, Landau has spent a large part of her working life — and not an insignificant amount of her "off-duty" hours — battling the growing epidemic of human sex trafficking.
She met with an array of forensic psychology, criminal justice and women and gender studies classes to share her experiences in that harrowing work.
"It has been awesome," Landau said of her visits with SAU students. "It was shocking at first to see how young they look. Yet, at the same time, it reminded me of my own St. Ambrose experience, when I had the opportunity to learn from real-life experience, as alumni would come to the classroom."
Landau's work experience is a far cry from the norm. She has been working since 2006 to break up prostitution rings involving girls sometimes 14 or younger trapped in lives they can't escape in the company of men who mislead and abuse them.
Human trafficking is an international epidemic, and the prevailing stereotype is of girls taken off the street against their will and sold into slavery. Landau, though, said the more prevalent trafficking locally involves older men luring restless young girls at malls and through social media with promises of love and a better life.
"One of the girls who testified in one of our cases said, ‘He promised me a dream and it didn't come to what he had promised," said Landau, a married mother of a young daughter. "She said, ‘I imagined a house. I imagined a life together. But when he started bringing in girl after girl, I knew I was just a piece of garbage to him.'''
Landau works on two fronts. The first is to capture and bring the manipulative "pimps" to justice. The second is to help the young victims reclaim some semblance of a normal life.
"I don't like to think about the numbers, but I hope that someday, somebody says I did some good and that what we are doing means something," she said. "You can arrest somebody and put the bad guys in jail and that's very important. But as long as we help one, two, three or four girls per case, if nothing else help them see they were not made for this life, that they don't have to stand for this, that for me is success."
Landau was contacted for a campus visit by Assistant Vice President for Advancement Sally Crino after Exploring Gender was selected as the theme for the 2014-2015 College of Arts and Sciences academic project last spring.
She met with a number of criminal justice classes during her visit, but also spoke to a New Student Seminar learning community of nursing students and met with women and gender studies majors.
"Carrie was a great example of someone who is using gender sensitive solutions to solve human rights problems such as human trafficking," said Katy Strzepek, director of women and gender studies at St. Ambrose. "Carrie showed how our graduates use skills they learn as liberal arts students - such as writing clearly and communicating with diverse populations - to succeed in careers in the real world.
"As a woman working in a traditionally male field, Carrie also gave our students some excellent advice about how to speak up for themselves and to work hard to gain access to jobs that might not have initially considered due to their gender or other perceived barriers."